6th Sunday of Easter – B LSB #’s 770, 783, 663
Text – John 15:13-14 & 16
Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. You did not choose me, but I chose you & appointed you to go & bear fruit – fruit that will last… (NIV)
Last week’s Gospel reading contained the well-known imagery of the branch & the vine. Jesus concludes, “Unless you remain in Me, neither can you bear fruit.” (John 15:4c) This week’s Gospel lesson continues right on the heels of last week’s, & it’s still talking about fruit. Today’s sermon is titled, “Fruit That Will Last,” & we’ll be looking at what that is.
We’ll be thinking about whether or not we produce any of it, & what determines whether that fruit will last or not. Who is it that’s supposed to bear this fruit? What does it look or feel like? How much of it should be produced? Where is that to be done?
Last week’s reading established rather clearly that we bear fruit only by remaining in Christ. He is the source of everything good that we produce, & we produce nothing good without Him. Apart from Jesus Christ, even our righteous deeds are but filthy rags. The Son of God must be living within in order for us to do anything worthy of notice.
To illustrate, there’s the story of a native from a remote village who had the opportunity to visit a modern city for the 1st time. He could not take much home with him, but he was amazed at the electric lights he saw everywhere. So, he bought a sack full of light bulbs & sockets with switches.
Arriving home he hung the lights in front of his house & on his & his neighbor’s trees. Everyone was watching with curiosity & asked, “What are you doing?” but he only smiled & said, “Just wait until dark – you’ll see.” When night came he turned on the switches & nothing happened. No one had told him about electricity. He didn’t know the light bulbs were useless unless connected to the source of their power. Are you connected to the source of your power? Are you looking for power in all the wrong places? PAUSE
By definition, the sinner in us serves only ourselves, so the words, “Love one another,” are foreign to our sinful nature. That side of me, loves only me, & no one else. That side of me looks out for number one, & only him. Other people are nothing more than tools to be used in order to get what I want.
For people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus that’s how they live, all the time.
As Jesus said of the Pharisees, they may look good on the outside, all white washed & shiny clean, but on the inside they’re nothing more than a collection of dead people’s bones. On the inside, without Christ, they have no life, & only death.
Yet even God’s children struggle with every kind of sin there is. No matter how good anyone looks on the outside, their insides are just as filthy & dirty as any unbeliever’s. Belief in Jesus as our Savior does not make us immune to sin. It only makes us immune to sin’s eternal effect. Our belief in Christ only remains strong when fully connected to the Vine – Jesus Christ.
As we drift away from the source of our life, & the source of our power to do good, our sinful nature takes over. We end up living like the unbelievers of this world. We produce more & more rotten fruit. Bitterness, anger & jealousy become the results of our living, which is actually a spiritual death in progress.
Can you recite the list of things that set you off? What sort of actions by others get under your skin? Has it occurred to you that those reactions of yours are not the fruit that will last? Is it possible, you need to ask God for help in dealing with those issues? Being connected to our power source is the answer to bitterness, anger or jealousy!
Being connected to Christ, brings peace, joy & fulfillment out of the very same broken circumstances in life that cause rotten fruit to form in people not connected to Jesus. It’s not the circumstances that determine the outcome; it’s your relationship with the Man who died on the cross in place of you. That relationship determines how you respond.
Without a relationship to Christ, your response has to be negative, because you have no life with which to respond. You cannot produce fruit unless you are connected to the Vine. Remaining connected is our chief job as followers of Jesus. As long as we remain connected, the Holy Spirit WILL work through us to produce results.
However, so many of us Christians drift away from the church. We fall away from regular attendance & from the Lord’s Supper. It seems harmless at first, but so gradually that we don’t even notice our love grows cold. Then, when troubles arise, we wonder, “Where is God?” We wonder why our lives seem dead & useless. Where’s the joy? Where’s the fruit?
The fact is that our lives are dead & useless whenever we are not connected to the Vine. A dead branch bears no fruit, no matter how hard it may try. And a dead branch cannot choose to reconnect itself to the Vine. Jesus Himself says that we did not choose Him. He chose us, & He did so in order that we might bear fruit – fruit that will last.
What kind of fruit is it that your life is bearing? An obvious example of fruit are the children in your family. The Apostle Paul wrote to Ephesus, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline & instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV) No Father in the world can raise Godly children if he himself is not connected to the Vine.
Fathers, are you connected to the source of your power? And are you bringing up your children in the training & instruction of the Lord? PAUSE
Another visible example of fruit that will last is a person’s marriage. Husbands & wives are blessed by God with each other, not simply to satisfy each other’s physical & emotional needs. They’re also to support & help each other grow in their faith. Wives aren’t there only for raising the children, & husbands aren’t there only for earning the income. God has a much more balanced & fulfilling design for marriages. They’re intended to reflect the relationship that Christ has with His church.
As Jesus gave His life for the church, the husband is to give his life for his wife. As the church is to submit to the loving will of Christ, so a wife is to submit to the loving will of her husband.
Sure, sin has made a mess of how marriages reflect that Godly relationship, but that doesn’t make the ideal marriage invalid. After all, it isn’t just marriage that sin has corrupted, but Christ has overcome sin. Christ has promised to bless marriages & families. The reason they fail in any way is because we are not capable of remaining fully connected to the Vine.
Christ Himself has to do the connecting. That’s one reason God became man – to reconnect the relationship that had been broken by Adam’s sin. Once Christ was born of Mary, it was again possible for individual human beings to be connected to God. The Orozco family is trying to teach that to the people they serve at the Latino Mission.
But now, even after Jesus paid for all sins, even after He reconnected us to Himself in Baptism, we still have the freedom to walk away, to drift away, to lose sight of our forgiveness. Faith has been given to us, & if we don’t use it, it is likely to die. Faith does not live by itself. It needs to be fed, nourished & exercised.
Families & congregations have been given to us for that purpose. It’s in our families & our congregations that you & I have countless opportunities for producing fruit that will last. Friendships that are neglected produce nothing. Faith that is neglected does not produce fruit.
Faith in Christ is also a relationship with Christ. Like all relationships, it will fade away
if you neglect it. It will die if it isn’t fed. Fruit that will last comes only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you think Jesus made you His brothers & sisters in order to be lazy, careless & selfish? Does it feel like your faith is growing weak & wasting away?
Three weeks from tomorrow we celebrate Memorial Day & hopefully honor the lives of all those who have sacrificed for the freedom we have in this country. Those freedoms will not last through eternity. They are only temporary, & still, millions of lives have been sacrificed for them over the history of our nation.
How much have you sacrificed in order to remain connected to the source of your freedom from sin? The Son of God not only humbled Himself to become a human being, but He then sacrificed His life for our freedom. He offers the power of immortality, & the opportunity to share that power with those we love. Are you remaining connected to your power source?
Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.” Instead, the Son of God has called us friends & everything that He learned from His Father He’s made known to us. To bear the fruit of being a friend of Christ is a special privilege that is difficult to describe. It’s a feeling like no other.
In regard to money & possessions, they say you can’t take it with you. But in a certain sense, you are able to take your children with you, as you bring them up in the discipline & instruction of the Lord. So, the fruit that will last is chiefly to be produced in the family. If you have no children, the congregation is your family in a larger sense.
In the congregation there’re many opportunities to serve your Lord, both spiritual & physical. Not everyone is capable of making visits to talk about Christ’s teaching, so God gives us opportunities to teach Sunday School, or to assist with Soccer Camp. The church building needs maintenance & repair. I spent several years on the Board of Trustees fixing, replacing, installing, you name it, all so that the spiritual work could be done by others. Everyone in the congregation, every Christian, has been given talents to use & the means to use them in God’s service. As we stay connected to Christ, as we grow in faith, the fruit of our love for God will come naturally. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need prompting. We only need learn to trust Him.
As you share the story of your spiritual struggles with your friends in the church, you’ll find that they can be of tremendous help to you. Each of us is able to share in the role of encouraging one another, because Christ has connected us to each other in this family called church. Jesus has enabled you & me to love each other by His love for us.
Remaining in Christ’s love & keeping His commandments, will allow Christ’s joy to remain in us, & it will be full. That’s the kind of joy that exists in the Holy Trinity because of the perfect union of the 3 Persons of the Trinity. The joy of the Godhead is the kind that can exist in a marriage, a family & a congregation, because God’s joy is founded upon Jesus Christ.
It’s His work that allows everything good in this world. It’s Jesus’ work that brings everything good into existence. It is God’s will & the Holy Spirit’s work that bring forth fruit that will last. He’s offering you the opportunity to experience that joy. You can actually experience that because Christ has taken away all the guilt of all your sin. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet